Over many decades, Israel’s self-serving deceptions about the Nakba in 1948 have been exposed for the lies Palestinians already knew them to be.
It was long accepted in the west that, as Israel claimed, Palestinians left their homes because they had been ordered to do so by neighbouring Arab leaders. The lie usefully distracted diplomats and scholars from the much more pertinent question of why Israel had refused to allow 750,000 Palestinian refugees to return to their homes after the war finished, as international law demanded.
The myth about the Arab leaders’ order, which had been steadily undermined by the work of the “new historians” of the late 1980s, was decisively punctured two years ago by an Israeli scholar who was given the wrong file by Israeli army archivists. It showed the story of the Arab leaders’ order was concocted by Israeli officials.
The same files should also have ended an equally diverting and lengthy debate about how many Palestinian villages Israel ethnically cleansed in 1948. Most Palestinian scholars were agreed it was well over 500; Israeli experts variously claimed it was between 300 and 400. Not that hundreds of ethnically cleansed villages was not bad enough, but Israel was happy to engage in a debate designed to make Palestinians look like inveterate exaggerators. Again, Israel’s archives confirmed the Palestinian account, with 530 villages razed.
Now another, related deception has been exposed. For decades Israel’s supporters have been arguing that Haifa, one of Palestine’s most important cities, was not ethnically cleansed of its population. The tens of thousands of Palestinians who fled under Israeli attack in April 1948 were later urged to return, according to Israel’s supporters, but they chose not to. Further proof, it seemed, that the Palestinians had only themselves to blame for losing their homeland. They chose to stay away.
Strangely, none of Israel’s propagandists ever seriously tried to suggest that the other 700,000 or so Palestinian refugees had been invited back home. It seemed as if the welcome supposedly extended in Haifa was reason enough for all Palestinians in exile to put aside their fears of Israel’s shoot-to-kill policy at its new borders and make the journey home.
But now a letter signed by David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister and the engineer of its ethnic cleansing policy in 1948, shows that, far from Haifa’s doors being thrown open, Ben Gurion ordered that the refugees be barred from returning.
Written on 2 June 1948, the letter was sent to Abba Khoushy, soon to become Haifa’s mayor. It states: “I hear that Mr. Marriot [Cyril Marriot, the British consul in Haifa] is working to return the Arabs to Haifa. I don’t know how it is his business, but until the war is over we don’t want a return of the enemy. And all institutions should act accordingly.”
Of course, that policy was not reversed after the war, as Ben Gurion hinted it might be. And one can wonder how much more specific his orders were to his army commanders if this was what he was telling civilian administrators.
The myth about Haifa was encouraged by Golda Meir, who wrote in her autobiography that Ben Gurion told her: “I want you to immediately go to Haifa and see to it that the Arabs who remain in Haifa are treated appropriately. I also want you to try and persuade the Arabs who are already on the beach to return home. You have to get it into their heads that they have nothing to fear.”
Meir added: “I went immediately. I sat on the beach there and begged them to return home… I pleaded with them until I was exhausted but it didn’t work.”
Heartbreaking – if only it were true.
How much longer must we wait to explode all the other myths associated with the Nakba, and much of Israel’s history ever since?
By Joe Emersberger – TeleSUR – May 27, 2015
Juan Forero’s latest article in the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), co-authored by José de Córdoba, ran with the headline “Venezuelan Officials Suspected of Turning Country into Global Cocaine Hub”. The article was immediately cited by the BBC, UK Guardian, and Reuters among others. Here are five things readers should notice about the article.
1) The let the scoundrel speak tactic was used.
The WSJ article provides a kind of fake balance that is very common in the corporate media. You could call it the “let the scoundrel speak” approach. An official from a government that has been widely ridiculed and demonized by the media for years is quoted rejecting US government allegations. Venezuelan General Motta Dominguez is quoted by the WSJ as saying “We all know that whoever wants his green card and live in the US to visit Disney can just pick his leader and accuse him of being a narco. DEA tours will attend to them.”
This tactic helped the media sell the Iraqi WMD hoax to the US public while claiming its reporting was balanced. Officials from Saddam Hussein’s government were regularly quoted denying US claims that they were hiding WMD – truthfully as many people would learn only after a war was waged that would kill at least half a million Iraqis. Critics whom most readers would have found way more credible – like former weapons inspector Scott Ritter or leaders of the anti-war movement – were simply ignored.
2) Highly relevant history was buried.
Years before US troops kidnapped Haiti’s democratically elected president (Jean Bertrand Aristide) in 2004, US prosecutors had been targeting officials around him – the same tactic they are now using against Nicolas Maduro’s government in Venezuela. As I explained here, long after those allegations against Aristide’s government were exposed as baseless they continue to resurface from time to time – when the US fears that Aristide or his Lavalas movement may be mobilizing. The WSJ – through its reporter Mary Anastasia O’Grady – was especially aggressive in promoting those allegations.
Imagine if the Venezuelan government had kidnapped the democratically elected president of another country. The only thing the western media would debate is how quickly and heavily to bomb Venezuela in retaliation, but the US government perpetrates a coup and the western media notices nothing. Never mind remembering that US prosecutors contributed to the coup in Haiti. The entire coup and its gruesome aftermath have been erased from history.
3) Key facts about US prosecutors were ignored
I asked Brian Concannon, a US attorney who has prosecuted landmark human rights trials in Haiti during the 1990s, to comment on the WSJ article’s claim that “The Obama administration isn’t directing or coordinating the investigations, which are being run by federal prosecutors who have wide leeway to target criminal suspects.”
Concannon replied “The US Attorneys for each judicial district are appointed by the President, and can be removed by the President for almost any non-discriminatory reason. It is true that the prosecutors have wide leeway, but it is equally true that they take direction from the Attorney General and President. The Bush Administration got in trouble in 2006 for firing seven US Attorneys who either investigated Republican candidates for election malfeasance or failed to adequately pursue Democrats. There was a scandal and some DOJ people were forced to resign, but no one was prosecuted and I believe that none of the fired Attorneys got their jobs back. “
Some partisan bickering highlights the facts Concannon mentioned. For example, Republicans were irate when Bill Clinton fired almost all US Attorneys in 1993. However, in the case of Venezuela – as in the case of foreign policy in general – the differences between Republican and Democrat presidents have been negligible. It may be true that the Obama administration is not “directing or coordinating the investigations” because, under both Bush and Obama, prosecutors who target Venezuelan officials are giving their bosses exactly what they want: ammunition they can use to try to discredit and isolate the Venezuelan government.
Recalling the debunked allegations against Aristide, Concannon said “There was such a bi-partisan antipathy towards Aristide, especially in the intelligence and DOS [State Department] communities, that the prosecutors didn’t need a big push to take the case up. Law enforcement and intelligence agencies could just hand over evidence (manufactured or not), the DOS could pass along its ‘reports’, etc. “
4) Colombia and the USA are depicted as regional good guys who are above suspicion.
The WSJ article said “Under pressure in Colombia, where authorities aggressively battled the drug trade with $10 billion in U.S. aid since 2000, many Colombian traffickers moved operations to neighboring Venezuela, where U.S. law-enforcement officials say they found a government and military eager to permit and ultimately control cocaine smuggling through the country.
Venezuela doesn’t produce coca, the leaf used to make cocaine, nor does it manufacture the drug. But the U.S. estimates that about 131 tons of cocaine, about half of the total cocaine produced in Colombia, moved through Venezuela in 2013, the last year for which data were available.”
Colombia produces cocaine for nearly all the US market, but the governments of the USA and Colombia are assumed to be squeaky clean by the WSJ and their claims are reported with deference. What the Colombian government did with billions of dollars in U.S. aid since the 1990s is amass a horrific human rights record – the worst in the region if you exclude USA whose foreign aggression puts it in a separate category. As for drug related corruption within the US government, the tragic tale of Gary Webb illustrates how the corporate media can destroy journalists who dare to explore the wrong kind of suspicions.
5) One can’t even assume the WSJ will convey publicly available information accurately.
This piece of mine exposes the extremely deceptive reporting one of the WSJ article’s authors, Juan Forero, did regarding Venezuela’s health care system. To the extent his work could be checked by readers, it didn’t check out. It is worth remembering while reading an article that quotes anonymous US officials.
After being caught red-handed presenting misleading video about the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 shoot-down, Australia’s “60 Minutes” program could have acknowledged its obvious error and apologized to its viewers. Instead, the program has resorted to hurling insults toward me – for noting the discrepancies – and engaging in more video sleights-of-hand to compound the journalistic malfeasance.
In an update posted on YouTube on May 24, the program’s host Michael Usher acknowledged that the original amateur video of a possible BUK anti-aircraft missile battery after the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of MH-17 did not match up with the program’s video attempting to replicate that scene in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk.
But Usher insisted that was just because his crew couldn’t get access to the location where the “getaway” video was shot. He dismissed the obvious differences as simply a case of using a different camera angle.
Yet, then, Usher pulled two fast ones on his viewers. The first was to present a view of the intersection in Luhansk taken by a traffic camera “just before the shooting” and then matching it up with video taken by his crew. Usher noted that his crew’s video contained many of the same landmarks, including a church in the background.
Screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes” update on its story about the shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17. According to host Michael Usher, the image was taken from a traffic camera shortly before the MH-17 shoot-down on July 17, 2014.
But that’s irrelevant to the question of whether the July 17 “getaway” video matched up with the same intersection. Usher is trying to trick you as in a shell game by pretending that the fact that he and his crew found a scene matching what you see in a traffic camera is the same as finding the scene matching the “getaway.” They’re two entirely different points and nothing significant in the “getaway” video matches the scene of Usher’s intersection.
Usher then moved to his second sleight-of-hand by showing the one thing that supposedly does match up: a non-descript utility pole. In the update, he claimed that his crew found that matching pole along the roadway in Luhansk. Yet, except for some unexceptional electronic device strapped to the pole there is nothing else that looks the same.
A screen shot from the so-called “getaway” video supposedly taken shortly after MH-17 was shot down showing the road that the suspected BUK anti-aircraft missile battery was taking.
Indeed, the key landmark in that part of the “getaway” video is a house in the background to the left of the pole. But Usher’s video doesn’t show a house. Instead, Usher’s video added an insert showing the pole from the “getaway” video that conveniently obscures the spot where the house should be.
A screen shot from Australia’s “60 Minutes” update supposedly showing a utility pole in the “getaway” video and matching it up with a pole in an intersection of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. However, note that the inset partially obscures the spot where a house appeared on the original video.
At this point, one has to wonder how premeditated Usher’s manipulation of the program’s viewers has become. You would think that showing the house would have been the slam dunk proof that Usher’s crew did find the right location. Instead, the program obscures exactly that spot.
Also, in the long-range view from the traffic camera, what you see is a commercial intersection with no house matching the house in the “getaway” video. The “getaway” scene after the MH-17 shoot-down clearly depicts a much woodsier setting than Usher’s intersection.
And, look at the two images of the poles and the surrounding areas. Except for the fairly routine electronic devices strapped to the poles, there really isn’t anything that looks the same. Below the pole in the “getaway” video there appears to be one band, yet in Usher’s there appear to be two. And, note the intense foliage to the right of the pole in the “getaway” video. It’s not there in Usher’s scene.
Yet, as Usher’s update rushes these images past the viewers, it’s hard for them to grasp all the quick editing moves that seem designed to deceive them. These deceptions are what Usher offers to seal the deal with his viewers.
Those camera tricks and the flurry of smug insults delivered by Usher (referring to skeptics of his presentation as “Kremlin stooges” and “Russian puppets”) reveal a newsman and a news show that are less than objective or professional.
If Usher had real evidence showing that he had found the spot where the “getaway” video was taken, why did he include something as irrelevant as the traffic-camera video while pretending that it was somehow probative, when it wasn’t?
And, why is his key evidence a non-descript pole that sits on a roadway that doesn’t match with the scene in the “getaway” video? And, why did his producers insert that “helpful” inset that obscures what would have been the only meaningful landmark in the “pole scene” – the house that doesn’t appear to be there?
Initially, I had thought that blogger Eliot Higgins simply had given Usher and his team bad coordinates and they had made a serious but honest mistake. Generally, in journalism, before we accuse someone of mass murder – even a demonized figure like Russian President Vladimir Putin – we like to have real evidence, not misleading images. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17?” and “You Be the Judge.”]
I had assumed that Usher and his team may just have gotten overly excited and jumped to a faulty conclusion. However, with the update – and the additional fakery – it now appears that they are engaged in a willful fraud.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
In a challenge delivered to Monsanto’s headquarters on May 20, 2015, US public interest attorney Steven Druker calls on that corporation to find any inaccurate statements of fact in his new book: “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth – How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public”
The thoroughly documented and referenced book exposes the substantial risks of genetically engineered foods and the multiple misrepresentations that have enabled them to permeate world markets.
Druker asserts that if Monsanto cannot prove that his book is essentially erroneous, the world will have a right to regard these controversial foods as unacceptably risky – and to promptly ban them.
‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ was released in March 2015 and is the result of more than 15 years of intensive research and investigation by Druker, who initiated a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that forced it to divulge its files on GM foods.
The book indicates that the commercialisation of GM food in the US was based on a massive fraud. The FDA files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting these foods to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.
If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.
He also argues that that many well-placed scientists have repeatedly issued misleading statements about GM foods, and so have leading scientific institutions such as the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the UK’s Royal Society.
Druker states that contrary to the claims of biotech advocates, humans have indeed been harmed by consuming the output of genetic engineering. He also explains that laboratory animals have also suffered from eating products of genetic engineering, and well-conducted tests with GM crops have yielded many troubling results, including intestinal abnormalities, liver disturbances, and impaired immune systems.
Druker says: “Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.”
Now, in his open letter dated 19 May, Druker challenges Monsanto’s Chief Technology Officer to: “Face Up to the Extensive Evidence Demonstrating that Genetically Engineered Foods Entail Unacceptable Risks and Should Be Promptly Removed from the Market.”
Druker finishes his letter by saying:
“If by July 20th you and your allies have not been able to refute the essential factual accuracy of Altered Genes, Twisted Truth according to the terms set forth above, the world will have a right to assume that it is as sound as the experts who reviewed it have affirmed – and to conclude that GE foods are unacceptably risky and must be banned.
Access the letter in full here.
The alleged Nazi gas chambers
On the subject of the Nazi gas chambers, Jean-Marie Le Pen recently stated: “If you take a thousand-page book on the Second World War, the concentration camps occupy two pages and the gas chambers ten or fifteen lines, and that’s called a detail.”
He might have brought up some even harder hitting and more precise arguments, and referred to Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle, Elie Wiesel, René Rémond, Daniel Goldhagen, and even the text of the Nuremberg Tribunal judgment.
Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle
Three of the best known works on the Second World War are General Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe (New York: Doubleday [Country Life Press], 1948), Winston Churchill’s The Second World War (London: Cassell, 6 vols., 1948-1954), and the Mémoires de guerre of General de Gaulle (Paris: Plon, 3 vols., 1954-1959). In these three works not the least mention of Nazi gas chambers is to be found.
Eisenhower’s Crusade in Europe is a book of 559 pages; the six volumes of Churchill’s Second World War total 4,448 pages; and de Gaulle’s three-volume Mémoires de guerre is 2,054 pages. In this mass of writing, which altogether totals 7,061 pages (not including the introductory parts), published from 1948 to 1959, one will find no mention either of Nazi “gas chambers,” a “genocide” of the Jews, or of “six million” Jewish victims of the war.
The same goes for the autobiographical account, Night (New York: Hill and Wang, 1960), in which Elie Wiesel relates his experience of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. Moreover, in the first volume of his memoirs, All Rivers Run to the Sea (New York: Random House/Knopf, 1995, p. 74), he writes, “Let the gas chambers remain closed to prying eyes, and to imagination.”
In the third volume of his Introduction à l’histoire de notre temps (“Introduction to the History of Our Times”), René Rémond, who was then president of the commission on the history of the deportation within the Comité d’histoire de la Deuxième Guerre mondiale (Committee on the History of the Second World War), made no mention whatsoever of these gas chambers (Le XXe siècle de 1914 à nos jours [“The 20th Century from 1914 to the Present”], Le Seuil, 1974). Fourteen years later, when he had become president of the Institut d’histoire du temps présent (Institute of Contemporary History), once again he made no mention of them in a 1,013-page work entitled Notre Siècle de 1918 à 1988 (“Our Century from 1916 to 1988,” Paris: Fayard, 1988).
Daniel Jonah Goldhagen
Since March 1996, the Jewish-American historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen has been treated as the darling of the media the world over, thanks to his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (New York: Knopf, 1996, xiv-634 pp.). While he does mention Nazi gas chambers, it is for little more than to note that “their efficiency has been greatly overstated” (p. 10), and that they have always been, and wrongly, “the overwhelming focus of popular and even scholarly attention” (p. 165). Goldhagen goes as far as to declare that “gassing was really epiphenomenal to the Germans’ slaughter of the Jews” (p. 533, n. 81) and that “the imbalance of attention devoted to the gas chambers needs to be corrected” (p. 535).
The Nuremberg Judgment
France’s Fabius-Gayssot law of 1990 specifically forbids the “challenging” or “contesting” of the portions of the judgment of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg (September 30 and October 1, 1946) relating to “crimes against humanity,” including the use of execution gas chambers. But it is noteworthy that, of the 84,000 words of the judgment’s text (in the French version), only 520, extremely vague, are devoted to gas chambers. This is 1/160th of the entire text, or 0.62 percent. In other words, 99.38 percent of the judgment does not deal with these gas chambers.
Why Such Reticence?
Why were Eisenhower, Churchill, de Gaulle, Elie Wiesel, René Rémond, Daniel Goldhagen, and the Nuremberg Tribunal so reserved on the subject of the Nazi gas chambers? Of course, revisionists have explanations for this reticence that, however, the Fabius-Gayssot law forbids us to make public in France.
My own explanations, which cannot be published in France without committing a crime, would include the following:
- The Nazi extermination gas chambers never existed.
- Eisenhower, Churchill, and de Gaulle knew or suspected that their own governments’ propaganda about gas chambers was not true. (Thus, on August 30, 1943, US Secretary of State Cordell Hull wrote to Standley, US Ambassador in Moscow: “… there is insufficient evidence to justify the statement regarding execution in gas chambers” [Foreign Relations of the United States: Diplomatic Papers 1943. US Government Printing Office, 1963, vol. 1, p. 416])
- Elie Wiesel probably now regrets that he did not mention gas chambers in his autobiographical work, Night.
- René Rémond revealed to me in November 1978 that he was “ready to follow [me] on the gas chamber matter.”
- Goldhagen probably realizes that the gas chamber story is fishy, and, anyway, prefers to insist on killing methods that permit him to accuse millions of Germans of complicity in crimes, rather than emphasize a specific killing method that implies only a handful of German criminals.
- The Nuremberg Tribunal judges had nothing substantive to say about the gas chambers because they understood that no investigation had been conducted as to the specifics of the “murder weapon,” and because neither the “witnesses” nor former Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss had been asked hard specific questions about the gas chambers.
From The Journal of Historical Review, March-April 1998 (Vol. 17, No. 2), pages 19-20.
About the Author
Robert Faurisson is Europe’s leading Holocaust revisionist scholar. He was educated at the Paris Sorbonne, and served as a professor at the University of Lyon in France from 1974 until 1990. His writings on the Holocaust issue have appeared in several books and numerous scholarly articles. This essay, less the final section headed “Why Such Reticence?,” was published in the New Year’s Day, 1998, editions of the French periodicals Rivarol (“Avez-vous des textes?”), and, with some slight modifications, in National Hebdo (“Précisions sur le détail”).
BETHLEHEM – Israeli interrogators are using “oppressive and brutal” methods to frighten Palestinian detainees and force them into confessing to attacks against Israel, a Palestinian official said Sunday.
Issa Qarage, who heads the Palestinian Authority prisoners’ affairs committee, made his comments during a visit to prisoners’ families in the northern West Bank village of Qusin in Nablus district, where he met with former detainee Noor Muhammad Hilmi Hamamrah, 15.
Hamamrah told him that during his interrogation in the Etzion detention center, Israeli interrogators had made him open his mouth while they used pincers to forcibly pry out part of his braces, causing bleeding.
An interrogator then told Hamamrah that he would pull out all of his teeth if he didn’t confess to throwing stones at Israeli vehicles, Qarage relayed.
Qarage said that the boy eventually made the confession.
Hamamrah was detained from his family home on April 15 at 3:00 a.m. and was taken in a military truck to the nearby Beitar Illit settlement where he was held for three hours before being taken to the detention center.
An Israeli prison spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Hamamrah’s account.
Prisoners’ rights group Addameer has long reported that treatment of Palestinian detainees by Israeli forces tantamount to torture is “widespread and systematic.”
In 2014, international rights group Defense for Children reported that 93 percent of children detained by Israeli forces were denied access to legal counsel, while others endured prolonged periods of solitary confinement for interrogation purposes, a practice that amounts to torture under international law.
John Mueller, the US political scientist who coined the term “sanctions of mass destruction,” to show that “economic sanctions…by large states…may have contributed to more deaths during the post-Cold War era than all weapons of mass destruction throughout history” , wrote an article two years ago in Foreign Affairs, the major foreign policy journal of the US establishment, challenging the idea that Syria’s chemical weapons (when it had them) were a threat.  Mueller examined the history of chemical weapons since WWI to make the point that chemical agents are misclassified as weapons of mass destruction (WMD).
According to Mueller, chemical weapons accounted for less than one percent of battle fatalities during the First World War; it took one ton of Sarin gas on average, during that conflict, to produce a single fatality; and only 2-3% of those gassed on the Western front died, compared to a fatality rate 10 to 12 times higher among those who were struck by bullets or shrapnel from conventional weapons. 
In their official history of WWI, the British concluded that “gas made war uncomfortable…to no purpose.”  Accordingly, most handsomely funded militaries with generous weapons development programs or the means to purchase highly destructive armaments were quite happy to relinquish their chemical weapons. They are ineffective and conventional arms produce far higher rates of fatalities.
But in the course of challenging the view that chemical weapons are WMD, Mueller came close to making a far more significant point, namely, that the concept of WMD is used for propaganda purposes to vastly exaggerate the threat posed by official enemies that have “weapons of little destruction.” This is done by creating the impression that the ineffective weapons in the enemy’s arsenal are weapons of great destructive power, through the pairing of weapons of little destruction, like chemical agents, with highly destructive armaments, like nuclear weapons. Two auxiliary points are necessary here: (i) These “enemies” are comparatively weak militarily, without the massively destructive conventional arms found in the arsenals of major military powers; (ii) The previous point explains the “enemies’” possession of weapons of little destruction. To exaggerate to make a point, labeling chemical weapons as WMD is like calling the spears of hunting and gathering tribes WMD in order to turn primitive people into threats.
In 1992, the term WMD was explicitly codified in US law to include not only nuclear weapons but chemical and biological weapons, as well. Then, in 1994, radiological weapons—conventional bombs used to disperse radioactive material—were added.  But chemical, biological and radiological weapons have nowhere near the destructive capability of nuclear weapons, to say nothing of the destructive capability of the high yield conventional explosives in the arsenals of the US and other large militaries.
So why would the United States subsume a class of highly ineffective weapons under a rubric archetypically defined by nuclear weapons?
For the same reason the British quintupled their gas casualty figures in WWI—to justify a military intervention. For the British, making gas into a uniquely inhuman weapon demonized the Germans, the major users of gas. This could be used, it was hoped, to draw the United States into the war on the side of the Triple Entente. 
For the United States, in 1992, investing chemical weapons with the same kind of horrific aura that nuclear weapons have, served the political purpose of making Iraq, which had chemical weapons—furnished by the United States, which condoned their use by Iraq against Iran —appear to be a unique threat—one that had to be dealt with by imposing what amounted to a blockade to starve the population into submission. The blockade contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, if not over a million, Iraqis—more people than could ever be killed by all of the chemical weapons in the US-supplied Iraqi arsenal—truly, sanctions of mass destruction, and far more terrible than chemical weapons.
So, WMD, applied to chemical, biological, and radiological weapons, is by design, a term of deception, whose purpose is the manipulation of public opinion to soften up attitudes to war against countries that (i) are an obstacle to US geopolitical designs and (ii) have one or more types of these weapons of little destruction.
These days, the concept of WMD as part of the propaganda system of Western states has been used against the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad. The nature of the government in Damascus, and the reason it finds itself in the cross-hairs of the West’s regime-change apparatus, can best be explained in the words of its president. “Syria,” asserts Assad, “is an independent state working for the interests of its people, rather than making the Syrian people work for the interests of the West.”  In other words, the Syrian government pursues Syria’s interests, not the interlocked political agendas of Washington and economic agendas of Wall St.
To demonize this obstacle to Western agendas, the charge is leveled at Damascus that it is responsible for at least one chemical weapons attack, for which no clear evidence has ever been adduced that implicates the Syrian army, and for which the use of chemical weapons would have been a transparent tactical blunder since it would have delivered to Washington a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria. For this reason it is highly improbable that the Syrian army was behind the attack. An additional charge, made now that Syria has abandoned its chemical weapons, is that it routinely uses chlorine gas as a weapon.
As a weapon, chlorine gas is exceedingly ineffective. It is lethal only in highly concentrated doses and where medical treatment is not immediately available. It is far less effective than conventional weapons.  Why, then, would the Syrian army use a highly ineffective weapon, which is deplored by world public opinion, and whose use would provide the United States a pretext to directly intervene militarily in Syria, when it has far more effective conventional weapons, which are not deplored by world public opinion, and whose use does not deliver a pretext to Washington to intervene? Unless we believe the government in Damascus is comprised of a collection of imbeciles, this makes no sense.
On the other hand, let’s look at this from the perspective of the opposition. It has a strong motive to use chlorine gas in order to pin blame for its use on the Syrian army to create a pretext for direct US military intervention. What’s more, the opposition’s major forces have a long history of using chlorine gas as a weapon.
Chlorine gas has been used by Sunni militants in Iraq for over a decade. It has been used intermittently in attacks against US and Iraqi forces and against civilians since 2003. There was a flurry of such attacks in Anbar province in 2007 as US forces were trying to wrest control of the territory from Al-Qaeda in Iraq , an organization from which sprang ISIS and al-Nusra, the principal militant groups in Syria today.
In light of the above, you don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out who’s using chlorine gas in Syria: the forces that have a motive for their use and a history of using them. Nor do you have to be particularly perceptive (only attentive) to determine that the insinuation of US politicians and leading news media that the Syrian government is weaponizing chlorine gas is a deliberate deception, on par with Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Powell inventing a pretext for war on Iraq by concocting a deliberate fiction about Iraq concealing chemical weapons, a fabrication leading news media legitimized.
The concept of WMD provides a context in which the public is manipulated to see governments whose militaries have ineffective weapons, of a destructive capability far below that of the conventional weapons in the arsenals of major militaries, as uniquely inhuman and vastly destructive, thereby depicting these governments as dire threats and consequently as necessary targets for regime change. Syria’s relinquishing its chemical weapons stores has undercut the ability of Western governments to demonize Damascus as a user of WMD. Accordingly, the Western propaganda system, of which governments, leading news media, and leading human rights NGOs are a part, has invoked allegations of chlorine gas use by the Syrian Arab Army to bring WMD back into the picture.
But it should be made clear, first, that it is a corruption of the truth to equate weaponized chlorine gas, a weapon of little destruction, with nuclear weapons and veridical WMD; second, that the allegation that the Syrian military is deploying a weapon of little destruction when it has more effective weapons and use of chlorine gas would deliver a pretext to Washington to directly intervene militarily in Syria, strains credibility; and third, there is, not surprisingly, a complete absence of credible evidence that the Syrian army has used chlorine gas as a weapon. It is the propaganda apparatus of Western states—itself a weapon of mass deception–that advances the antitheses of these points.
1. John Mueller and Karl Mueller, “Sanctions of Mass Destruction,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 1999.
2. John Mueller, “Erase the Red Line: Why WeShouldn’t Care about Syria’s Chemical Weapons,” Foreign Affairs, April 30, 2013.
5. Ibid; The radiation dispersal range is equal to the blast range. Hence, anyone exposed to radiation would be killed first by the conventional blast. Adding radioactive material, then, to a conventional bomb is pointless—like shooting someone two days after he has been beheaded.
7. Glen Kessler, “History lesson: When the United States looked the other way on chemical weapons,” The Washington Post, September 4, 2013
8. President al-Assad: Basis for any political solution for crisis in Syria is what the Syrian people want,” http://www.syriaonline.sy/?f=Details&catid=12&pageid=5835
9. Anne Barnard and Somini Sengupta, “Syria is using chemical weapons again, rescue workers say,” The New York Times, May 6, 2015.
10. Kirk Semple and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. is investigating report that Islamic state used chlorine gas,” The New York Times, October 23, 2014.
The New York Times ran an article on May 12 suggesting that the Syrian government has held back some of its chemical weapons and is using them against rebel fighters. Significantly, the allegation was backed by no evidence, yet the newspaper chose to run the story anyway.
In their story (“Inspectors in Syria find traces of banned military chemicals”) reporters Somini Sengupta, Marlise Simons and Anne Barnard cited a conclusion drawn by an anonymous Western diplomat who was briefed on findings by inspectors from the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The inspectors had reportedly found traces of toxic nerve agents in Syria. The diplomat was quoted as saying that there’s a “strong suspicion” that the Syrians “are retaining stockpiles which are being held back.”
However, a close reading of the article showed that there was not one whit of evidence to back up the diplomat’s suspicion. Indeed, at various points in the article, the story’s lead was challenged by the journalists themselves.
• “[S]mall amounts of banned agents [have been found. But these findings] do not necessarily indicate a lingering weapons program.”
• “[T]here was no clear evidence of new use or production of forbidden chemicals.”
• “There is no evidence that banned materials were used in weapons after Syria signed the treaty, or that Syria possesses sufficient quantities to use in future weapons.”
A fitting headline would have read “Western diplomat accuses Syrian government of hiding chemical weapons, on no evidence.”
In the same article the reporters refer to “mounting evidence that Mr. Assad’s forces had violated the terms of the international treaty banning use of chemical weapons … by dropping jerry-built chlorine bombs on insurgent-held areas.” The mounting evidence turned out to be the testimony of witnesses who say the bombs have been dropped from government helicopters.
However, the quality of the evidence is untested, and virtually useless. There’s no way to determine whether the witnesses are authentic or simply opponents of the Syrian government who have an interest in spreading false allegations.
What’s more, there’s a compelling reason to believe that Syrian forces have not engaged in the action they’re accused of. Jerry-built chlorine bombs are capable only of briefly incapacitating a few fighters. Conventional bombs—which the Syrians have in abundance—permanently eliminate many more. Why, then, would Syrian forces risk worldwide condemnation to use an ineffective weapon, when they have more effective weapons at their disposable which world opinion does not condemn?
Sensing that their source’s allegation may be treated with suspicion, the New York Times journalists acknowledge that “Evidence of chemical weapons remains a fraught issue for global public opinion more than a decade after false claims of an Iraqi chemical weapons program were used to justify the American invasion that deposed Saddam Hussein.”
No less fraught is the complicity of Western media in propagating similarly baseless allegations to serve an obvious political agenda.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch says that USA Patriot Act dragnet spy powers must be extended or else the terrorists will get us.
Lynch said Friday the country would be “less safe” if Congress fails to renew surveillance programs included in the Patriot Act.
Lynch joined other top Obama administration officials, who are urging the Senate to pass the USA Freedom Act, which would reform the National Security Agency’s (NSA) bulk phone records collection program while renewing other key parts of the post-Sept. 11 law.
“Our biggest fear is that we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad,” Lynch told CBS News in her first interview since becoming attorney general.
If NSA’s phone metadata program expires completely, Lynch said the U.S. government would lose “important tools” to identify terror threats.
“I think that we run the risk of essentially being less safe,” Lynch added. “I think that we lose the ability to intercept these communications, which have proven very important in cases that we have built in the past. And I am very concerned that the American people will be unprotected if this law expires.”
Lynch didn’t marshal any evidence to support her claims about the connection between dragnet spying and public safety. That’s because there isn’t one. Even the Department of Justice has acknowledged as much, writing in an Inspector General report that FBI agents interviewed couldn’t identify “any major case developments” tied to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, the provision the FBI claims enables dragnet spying.
Surveillance boosters have never been able to point to a circumstance—even one example—that proves dragnet surveillance is vital in stopping terrorism. Some insiders in the security state have observed that the bigger the haystack, the more difficult it is to successfully use intelligence information to identify and track threatening people. More information is not better. Better information is better, they say.
Loretta Lynch says she fears that if the Patriot Act isn’t reauthorized, “we will lose important eyes on people who have made it clear that their mission is to harm American people here and abroad.” That’s total nonsense. Anyone who “makes it clear” that they want to kill Americans is someone a judge would authorize targeted surveillance against. The government should leave the rest of us out of it.
Just about every recent terrorist attack on US and European soil has been committed by someone known to law enforcement. That’s true for the Garland, Texas shooter and for Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who blew up the Boston Marathon in April 2013. The government doesn’t need to spy on you and me in order to track people it already suspects of being up to no good.
You might be wondering: If dragnet spying doesn’t stop terrorism, and most terrorists are known to law enforcement, why do the FBI and the new Attorney General insist on renewing the Patriot Act’s worst provisions? It’s an important question, with a depressing answer.
The reason Lynch’s claims about dragnet spying don’t add up is because they are based on a perversion of the true purpose served by society wide surveillance. While the Patriot Act doesn’t stop terrorism, it’s quite good at enabling social and political control, and finding people who are vulnerable and may be easily coerced into becoming FBI informants.
If surveillance boosters were honest about why they want these powers, you might hear them talking less about terrorism and more about power. Add your voice: take action now to tell congress to reject dragnet surveillance.
Published on March 13, 2015
Much is not what it seems around the tragedy of the Malaysian airliner MH17 which was shot down above the Ukraine on july 17th 2014. This video challenges the immediate reflexes by the establishment media and governments, it explains the true story behind the events in the Ukraine and the loopholes in the official investigation.
The following anecdote may or may not be apocryphal, but either way given the geopolitical zeitgeist, the “moral” of the “fable” is a telling one. The story goes that during the 1980s a group of American journalists were hosting a visit to the U.S. of one of their Soviet counterparts. After proudly showing their visitor the “ropes” as to how it all works stateside, most of them expected their guest to express unbridled envy at the professional liberties they enjoyed in the Land of the Free Press. Later, whilst comparing notes about how they respectively went about plying their trade, the Russian scribe was indeed compelled to express his unabashed “admiration” to his hosts – but it was for the “superior quality” of American “propaganda.”
Now it’s fair to say his hosts were taken aback by what was at best a backhanded compliment. After some collegial argy-bargy about the stereotypes customarily associated with Western “press freedom” versus those of the controlled media in the Soviet system, one of the Americans called on their Russian colleague to explain himself. In fractured English, he replied with the following:
“It’s very simple. In Soviet Union, we don’t believe our propaganda. In United States, you actually believe yours!”
Many people familiar with this relatively obscure yarn might this week have once more been reminded of its enduring pertinence in the post-Cold War and post-9/11 eras with the airing last week on “60 Minutes” Australia of a report claiming to have solved the mystery of the Malaysian Airlines MH-17 shoot-down disaster last July 17 over eastern Ukraine.
This would especially have been the case with those of us who’ve had singular difficulty with the official Western position on who was actually responsible for the incident, one to which the “60 Minutes” segment seemed to go out of its way to give its seal of approval.
Along with reviving a major international story that for almost six months now has all but gone missing in media action, the “60 Minutes” crew ostensibly have added fuel to the fire that still attends the broader Ukraine situation, along with that of the resultant standoff between Russia and America and its Western allies, over what is happening in that country. In this context the introductory anecdote (above) takes on additional resonance.
I will return to the actual “60 Minutes” segment shortly along with some reactions to it. However, given the long dormant status of the story, it is necessary to revisit some of the key aspects of this international tragedy, one in which Australia lost 38 people, second only to the Netherlands, which lost 193 nationals.
The significance of the MH-17 story cannot be underestimated, despite – or indeed because of – its extended absence from the news cycle. This, not least because of the large number of family members and friends both in Australia and worldwide of those who perished and who themselves are still, some 10 months later, looking for answers and some closure. Moreover, the very fact this incident took place within the supercharged geopolitical atmosphere that is the Ukraine crisis, one even more charged now than it was then, is also of considerable importance.
From the outset, Western governments and politicians from across the political spectrum – led by the nose by the neoconservative cabals in Washington and dutifully buttressed by their propaganda shills in the corporate or mainstream media (MSM) – relentlessly sought to assign blame to Russia for the shoot-down. This was a textbook media case study reinforcing the old adage about never letting the facts get in the way of a good story. In the course of doing so, they recklessly inflamed an already intense standoff between the two countries over the Ukraine crisis, one that it has to be emphasized, is largely of America’s own making.
Despite official denials from Washington, this “crisis” we now know was custom-designed and purpose-built by Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland and her posse of “regime changers” in the State Department, dutifully backed up by their neoconservative cronies (including Nuland’s husband Robert Kagan), to say little of the “liberal interventionists” in the Obama administration and in the broader Official Washington community.
As for what actually happened to MH-17 and who was responsible, Washington and the MSM in the West continued to maintain their rage for Russia despite being unable to provide concrete evidence of their claims, all the while singularly failing to provide news consumers and the general public with the full story, at least to the extent it was known.
If nothing else (and with this story there is plenty “else”), the MH-17 fallout was emblematic of the MSM’s long, well (if not fully) documented, and not so illustrious history of venal complicity in blindly validating Western governments’ approved narratives, along with sanctioning their official agendas and, whether through sins of omission or commission, suppressing their secret ones.
This is not conspiracy theory; it’s conspiracy reality. In fact it remains one of the key reasons why the generic MSM brand is in such decline among discerning news consumers seeking timely truths and authentic realities about the world in which we live and the forces which shape it.
For those folks highly skeptical, even dismissive, of the official narrative of the events leading up to and attending the MH-17 disaster, it was and has always been a “put up or shut up” proposition. This is something even the “60 Minutes” folks would have known from the start. And although we can say those promulgating this official narrative were unable to “put up” (albeit not for the want of trying), they eventually did “shut up.”.
The Blame Game
It seems then the politicians and their praetorian guard-dogs in the MSM were unable to sustain the breathlessly hysterical, one-sided “blame game” they collectively indulged in with respect to Russia, all the while reserving particular animus for its President Vladimir Putin. The “blame game” then was called off, though it was always something of a “shell-game” in disguise.
The hypocrisy was breathtaking in its scope, duration and intensity. Indeed, so “hysterical” was the backlash, Western leaders appeared to be outdoing themselves in carrying the can for Washington, with arguably Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott leading the pack by earlier threatening to “shirt-front” the Russian president over the issue during his official visit to this country last November for the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane.
Coming from a national leader on the world stage, this unprecedented, petulant outburst was something to behold. But such was the fervor of the times regarding MH-17 especially, and more broadly, the anti-Russian mood that prevailed earlier in the year over Russia’s “invasion” of Ukraine in the aftermath of the U.S.’s prefabricated coup d’état.
Yet even putting aside the reality, Abbott was doubtless playing to local audiences given the number of Aussies killed in the shoot-down (to say nothing of his rock-bottom domestic political stocks at the time), it was clear from this moment the anti-Russian mood across the West at least within official circles – if the effective G20 snubbing of Putin was any indication – had indeed reached a crescendo if it hadn’t taken on a life of its own.
The MH-17 incident proved to be a powerful lightning rod through which the bear baiting could effectively be channeled by all and sundry. It was the gift that kept on giving for the neoconservatives and their interventionist confreres, along with those American allies wanting to ingratiate themselves with the Beltway Bandits on both banks of the Potomac.
Then, after the G20 in Brisbane, the collective Western umbrage died out. The intensity and duration of the ongoing anti-Russian feeding frenzy was completely at odds with the abruptness with which the MH-17 matter disappeared from the news cycle. The silence on MH-17 might have been deafening, yet it spoke volumes at the same time, and still does. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Danger of an MH-17 ‘Cold Case’” and “US Intel Stands Pat on MH-17 Shoot-down.”]
That said, in retrospect it seems it was only a matter of time before someone somewhere sought to revive the story complete with the “Putin did it” narrative. Cue here “60 Minutes” Australia!
The Dogs Not Barking
Now we can only surmise that this recent revelation purporting to be the definitive account of what actually happened to, and who was responsible for, the MH-17 shoot-down was the end result of a decision by the “60 Minutes” folks to boldly go where their colleagues in other MSM outlets feared to tread, fears based one suspects on the old adage that it’s better to let sleeping media dogs lie after all.
Moreover, one suspects this may have been an attempt by “60 Minutes” at brand “rehab,” since for those of us with a more nuanced view of how the MSM really works have known for some time said “brand” has become somewhat shop-soiled over the years. And given “60 Minutes” status as a flagship MSM name – whether in Australia or in the U.S. – going down this path was always going to attract people’s attention. For this reason alone it was fraught with peril, so they just had to get this one right!
Which is to say, this was the only way they could go if they were attempting to revive the MH-17 story. Considering the basic laws governing the media news-cycle, efforts to do so had to be accompanied by some groundbreaking new insights, or at least the next best thing. And one can only wonder what the “next best thing” might have looked like short of finding the “smoking gun” (or should we say, “smoking BUK”) and identifying the persons who fired it. This was especially the case given the hammering the same media gave the issue from the outset.
But in declaring unequivocally they had indeed done all this, in the process correspondent Michael Usher and his intrepid “60 Minutes” team of investigators may have not only opened up a can of worms, they might also have bitten off more than they can chew and dug themselves into an even deeper hole in one fell swoop. They are going to look awfully silly if they aren’t able to sustain the narrative they have assembled from their investigations.
The proof will be in the pudding going forward one imagines, the “pudding” in this case being largely whether the general public in Australia or anywhere else accepts their conclusions, and whether other MSM outlets pick up on the story and continue to run with it. And as of this writing, there appear few signs their MSM confreres – either in Australia or in the U.S. – are chomping at the bit to do so.
With this in mind, if Robert Parry of Consortium News has anything to do with it, rather than gaining any ongoing traction, the story as it stands will be stopped in its tracks. Although his profile Down Under may not be high, Parry is one of America’s most respected investigative journalists working in the alternative, independent media space. He’s also someone who has taken a very strong interest in the MH-17 incident, and in the broader situation in the Ukraine. After viewing the “60 Minutes” report, he was to put it mildly less than impressed with Usher and Co.’s “findings.”
Now because readers can decide for themselves by viewing the various links herein and doing their own research if so inclined, there’s little point rehashing the minutiae of the “60 Minutes” revelations or providing a blow-by-blow account of Parry’s own responses. It is however worth noting some of the key points.
The Video Mismatch
To begin with, Parry suggests that “60 Minutes” might have “faked” a key piece of evidence in arriving at its conclusion – in claiming that it had located the spot where a video was taken after the MH-17 shoot-down and showing what appears to be a BUK launcher making a getaway. The “60 Minutes” team claimed the spot was in rebel-controlled Luhansk and the launcher was fleeing back to Russian territory. However, Parry noted that the scene in the earlier video didn’t match the site shown by “60 Minutes.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Fake Evidence Blaming Russia for MH-17?”]
Further, Parry pointed to one of the main bones of contention for those of us who have had great difficulty accepting the official position, that being “the dog-not-barking question of why the U.S. government has withheld its intelligence data.” This is a not unimportant consideration by any means and one to which we’ll return.
Not unexpectedly the “60 Minutes” folks in response took considerable umbrage at Parry’s suggestion they were engaging in journalistic “sleight-of-hand” in the way they had framed their narrative and presented their “ground-breaking new insights.” One member of the investigative team tweeted that Parry had made a “huge and embarrassing mistake” – but didn’t say what it was.
However it was the segment’s producer Stephen Rice who adopted an especially righteous stance. Describing Parry’s claims as “nonsense, and demonstrably wrong,” he then went for the journalistic jugular by declaring Parry’s piece “an amateurish attempt to discredit our story, embarrassing even for him.” Now the loaded phrase “even for him” is a measure of Rice’s “umbrage” to be sure, and suggests that for reasons about which we can only speculate he had little regard for Parry’s journalistic integrity even prior to his outburst.
There was certainly a whiff of the “methinks he doth protest too much” about it. Yet one is left wondering if Rice is so convinced they got their story right and that the facts speak for themselves, whether this decidedly nasty additive at the end of his salvo was actually necessary, or for that matter was becoming of any self-respecting journalist.
But they left themselves wide open to Parry’s follow-up response, again noting that the two images – one from the night of July 17 and the other from the “60 Minutes” show – simply don’t match up and that all the hostile rhetoric won’t change that fact. Parry again published the side-by-side images with an invitation to readers to decide for themselves. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “You Be the Judge.”]
And in respect to any further consideration of who the real culprits were and as to what actually happened to MH-17 – the sole focus of the “60 Minutes” story – the significance of the “question” regarding why U.S. intelligence data has been withheld cannot be overstated. With this in mind, in the course of their investigation, why didn’t the “60 Minutes” folks seek out someone from the U.S. Government to provide corroboration or otherwise from their own intelligence data as to the veracity of their findings?
Or to put it in even simpler terms, why didn’t “60 Minutes” ask the U.S. Government point-blank why they have thus far refused to release all the satellite imagery and related intelligence data on the MH-17 shoot-down that by most objective accounts would put the matter to rest once and for all? We might safely surmise herein this is because of the same reason there is still much evidence yet to see the light of day regarding the JFK Thing, or the 9/11 Thing, or the Iran/Contra Thing or any number of other memorable “Things” for which full explanations and revelations from the U.S. government remain outstanding.
More Revelation, Less Accusation
Taking then a broader view, there are a myriad range of other issues and angles to be considered for anyone revisiting the whole MH-17 tragedy: the geopolitical milieu in which the MH-17 incident took place and the narrative framework in which its story continues to play out – the ongoing Ukraine crisis created by Washington; the West’s diplomatic marginalization of Russia coupled with the economic sanctions; the incessant saber-rattling and continuing encroachment by NATO around Russia’s borders; the resentment and suspicion that America through its belligerent foreign policy machinations is fomenting with nations such as Iran, China and others – all has the potential to determine the fate of nations and the geopolitical landscape for years to come. And not it needs be said, in a good way. And that’s without considering the “nuke” factor!
In this context then, the MH-17 disaster in realpolitik terms may not even matter that much anymore. This may explain why the story disappeared so quickly from the media radar. In reality and again with the benefit of some rear-view-mirror gazing, the MH-17 tragedy was always a geopolitical football from the beginning, and in that sense it has long since served its purpose.
To underscore this and at the same time point to some of those myriad issues and angles regarding the MH-17 shoot-down that have all been swept under the carpet – including it should be noted by our intrepid “60 Minutes” journalistic “gumshoes” – the documentary by Peter Vlemmix is a must watch.
To be sure, there are “plenty” of other folks who have questioned and indeed openly challenged the rationale for the official response from Western politicians and the MSM. But Vlemmix’s film is as good a place to begin for those looking to gain a more complete – and more dispassionate – perspective. And for those wishing to explore an alternative summary of the evidentiary minutiae specifically addressed by “60 Minutes,” the link herein is also highly recommended.
Further, it may also be instructive to consider the following. Over three months ago and well after the MH-17 story disappeared from the radar, I personally sent to Australian Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop an email presenting her with a number of queries regarding the Australian government’s official position on MH-17 at that point. These are some of the questions I asked the Minister then, and they remain pertinent now:
- What countries are currently involved in [the MH-17] investigation, and what specific role is Australia playing? At what stage is the investigation itself and when does the Minister expect that it will be completed and a report available?
- Can the minister confirm or deny speculation/reports that the findings of the investigation will not be released? If they are not to be released as has been reported, can the Minister please explain why this is the case?
- If it is found the Ukrainian separatists were responsible – which seems to be the official position of most stakeholders – will this change the position of the countries involved as to whether the findings indeed will be released if at this stage there is – as reported – no plans to do so?
- If the report is not to be released, will the relatives of the victims be privy to the findings, regardless of the outcome of said findings? If not, why not? If so, what conditions might be placed on them re: confidentiality if indeed the report is not going to be released in full un-redacted? Will they still be able to seek compensation from those responsible, regardless of who that is?
- If it is found that the Russian separatists were not in fact responsible for this disaster, will the Australian government lift the sanctions imposed on the Russian government in the wake of the disaster? Will the Australian Prime Minister also apologise to the Russian president for both the imposition of the sanctions, and the manner in which he was treated during the Brisbane G20?
- If in fact it is found that the Ukrainian regime was responsible, will the Australian government seek compensation for victims and reimbursement for the cost of the recovery operation and investigation? Will it seek an official apology from and/or impose economic sanctions on the Ukraine regime in response? Will the relevant members of the Ukrainian regime face possible criminal charges in international courts?
Now there was no response from the Minister’s office despite a follow-up query, which for most may not be surprising. And we can only speculate as to whether I might have received a reply had I been a “60 Minutes” investigative reporter. For others, especially after all the brouhaha surrounding MH-17, the no-reply might also be something of a fashion statement.
But the point herein is this: As with all incidents useful to Western governments, the MH-17 tragedy had served its purpose. There was no political dividend in continuing to flog the proverbial dead horse.
The Perpetual Siren Call of Realpolitik
As brutal as it sounds, the Australian government’s priority was not finding closure for the victims’ families, determining the real cause of the tragedy, or ensuring as far as is possible those responsible faced justice, and it would appear that the Netherlands is no different in this respect.
In response to the additional controversy over the release of a report on the investigation and as to who would actually get to see it, the Dutch Prime Minister’s office issued a statement late November 2014 that said the following, which wasn’t much in words, but spoke volumes in meaning: “….the benefits of disclosing information about the MH17 investigation were outweighed by the risk of damage to the Dutch state’s relations to other states and world bodies.”
Although no one has yet coughed up hard-core evidence against the Kremlin (including it would seem most key figures in the U.S. intelligence community), the Western powers led by Washington have flagrantly exploited the disaster in order to bolster their propaganda campaign against Russia. This is, after all, the Washington Way. Within the geopolitical realm though and in the final analysis, the perpetual siren call of realpolitik dictates that there are more often than not bigger fish to fry.
Moreover, with the possible exception of the consideration the Russian separatists did shoot down the airliner deliberately and did so at the Kremlin’s instigation (a scenario that no one takes seriously), regardless of what happened and who was responsible for the disaster, the Americans themselves have to shoulder most if not all the blame for this lamentable, avoidable tragedy. Their track record of “regime change” is one that is well documented, with the commensurate blowback from such interventions constituting a narrative deep, wide and long enough to justify its own unique classification and index number within the Dewey library catalogue system.
In this context then the MH-17 tragedy appears to be the direct outcome of another of those interventions, collateral damage as a direct consequence of playing the Great Game in the relentless pursuit of empire. For that matter, Ukraine itself may also be destined to take a back seat in the Great Game going forward. This observation was underscored by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times recently, wherein he reports on an apparent thaw in the U.S.–Russia relationship, one instigated by America.
As for the “60 Minutes” folks, they may or may not have had the best intentions in their fearless efforts to uncover the truth. And they may or may not have covered all the bases and considered all the relevant facts, evidence and issues in delivering their final verdict. If they haven’t then, this would not be the first time by any stretch one of the MSM’s flagship brands has been caught short and found wanting in any or all of the above criteria.
As far as the “60 Minutes” brand itself is concerned, in this respect we only have to recall “Rathergate”. This referred to the Dan Rather imbroglio in 2004 resulting from revelations about George W. Bush’s National Guard duty in the lead-up to the presidential election of that year, “revelations” which were based in part on questionable documents. The botched story it should be remembered culminated in the veteran newsman’s downfall, along with the firing of several lesser known colleagues.
In concluding then, for the moment and for the sake of argument, let’s give the “60 Minutes” crew the benefit of the doubt. They may have approached their investigation with an open mind from the start and then even genuinely believed when they went to air the program they were on the right track. Yet such was the nature of this story that that in the final analysis was never going to be enough. Their findings had to be more than convincing, even more than conclusive; they had to be bulletproof.
For his part Robert Parry has raised sufficient doubts, enough to render their findings significantly less than conclusive if not indeed less than credible. It is difficult then to accept that this high-wire adventure in investigative journalism had less to do with arriving at a truth or reality that most of us could get our heads around. It was more about reinforcing an official narrative – one that has never been explained or evidenced satisfactorily by those who were best positioned, and upon whom it was always incumbent, to do so – and more to do with journalistic one-upmanship, MSM grandstanding and brand refurbishment.
And judging by the singular lack of interest from other MSM outlets in taking up the “60 Minutes” story, even their own colleagues apparently aren’t that convinced they in fact, did get it right. Until and unless this happens, Messrs Usher and Rice and their crew it seems will have two options, neither of which one imagines would be very palatable for Brand “60 Minutes.” They can dig in their heels, “maintain the rage” on their Pat Malone, or stop “mentioning the war.”
Doubtless though, it will be fascinating to see which path they take going forward. Tick, tock!… Tick tock!.. Tick tock!…
Three provisions of the Patriot Act expire on June 1 and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying to delay taking action on the issue by calling for a two month or 5-year reauthorization of Section 215—the provision of the Patriot Act the NSA relies on to collect millions of Americans call records.
Before June 1 we expect to see plenty of fear-mongering from intelligence officials and national security hawks. Last year, the Wall Street Journal began the foray with an op-ed by Former NSA Director General Mike Hayden and former Attorney General Michael Mukasey—key architects of many of the NSA’s unlawful activities. This time, the mongering started with op-eds by John Yoo, Senator Marco Rubio, and Senator Tom Cotton.
Here are the top excuses officials will use to continue spying on Americans calling records and why they’re wrong:
Congress Needs Time to Debate
“I don’t know how we have the kind of fulsome debate that is going to be required on NSA without passing a temporary extension,” —Sen. John Cornyn
Congress has had two full years to publicly debate the NSA’s use of Section 215. Indeed, the debate has been vigorous and thoughtful. While Congress didn’t create a separate investigative committee, it was still able to hold over a dozen hearings where Section 215 was discussed. The hearings, which called upon officials like the Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and Director of the NSA, included hours of testimony on the programs, what they collect, and their effectiveness.
Congress has also debated Section 215 via Senator Patrick Leahy and Jim Sensenbrenner’s reform bill called the USA Freedom Act. Last year, the House passed a gutted bill of the USA Freedom Act, but debated the legislation for days. This year, the House debated a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act and passed it 338 to 88.
The Senate has also debated the legislation. Last year, after two days of debate, the Senate failed to advance a stronger version of the USA Freedom Act by two votes. Congress has had more than enough time to discuss these authorities and must act.
The Section 215 Program is Effective
“This has been a very important part of our effort to defend the homeland since 9/11.” —Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
There’s one problem: there’s no evidence to support that. Two independent commissions concluded the calling records program was not effective and has not been used to stop a terrorist attack. The first, called the President’s Review Group on Signals Intelligence, concluded “Our review suggests that the information contributed to terrorist investigations by the use of section 215 telephony meta-data was not essential to preventing attacks.”
Like the President’s Review Group, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board also concluded:
Based on the information provided to the Board, including classified briefings and documentation, we have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation. Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.
The quotes speak for themselves.
Fixing Section 215 Puts the Nation at Risk
“[The USA Freedom Act] would be rolling [the nation] back to exactly where we were pre-9/11. —Sen. Richard Burr
The Attorney General, Director of National Intelligence, and House Intelligence Chair and Ranking Members do not think reforming the Section 215 program will harm national security. Attorneys General Eric Holder and Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper wrote letters (.pdf) to Congress noting that Section 215 reform would preserve both “vital national security authorities” and “essential Intelligence Community capabilities.”
The Program is “Lawful”
“Contrary to irresponsible rumors, the [bulk surveillance] program is lawful, carefully monitored, and protects personal privacy. The program does not conduct mass surveillance of American citizens—or any surveillance at all.” —Sen. Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo
Apparently, one of the “irresponsible rumors” Sen. Tom Cotton and Rep. Mike Pompeo reference is a decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals. (The circuit courts are the federal courts directly below the Supreme Court). The Second Circuit held that the NSA’s telephone records program went far beyond what Congress authorized when it passed Section 215 of the Patriot Act in 2001. The court rejected the government’s secret reinterpretation of Section 215 that has served as the basis for the telephone records collection program. The Second Circuit’s opinion stands as a clear sign that the courts are ready to step in and rule that mass surveillance is illegal.
In addition, the program is “surveillance.” As we’ve repeatedly said: the collection of metadata matters. It reveals a host of information and context about a person’s habits, traits, and beliefs. The Circuit Court opinion explained that metadata is often a proxy for the content of the communication, and that phone records can “reveal a startling amount of detailed information” about callers. The court also recognized that aggregation of calling records matters because collection of large amounts of metadata plus the application of sophisticated data processing technologies gives the government access to even more revealing portraits of individuals and groups.
Congress Must Say No to a Short-Term Reauthorization
In the next few days, Congress will begin to debate whether or not they should vote for a short-term reauthorization of Section 215. The answer is clearly no. Join us now in telling your lawmaker to vote against any short-term reauthorization.